Parker - Hulme Murder Case

Source: Furneaux, Rupert. Famous Criminal Cases V2. London: Wingate, 1955. P.32-49

The New Zealand girl murderers

We have to go back to Chicago in the early nineteen-twenties to find a murder case as shocking as the killing of the mother of one by two teenage girls in New Zealand in June 1954. Thirty years ago Leopold and Loeb, the American youths who killed a smaller boy, were found insane. Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme pleaded insanity but they were found guilty of what was, according to the Crown Prosecutor, "a callously planned and premeditated murder, committed by two highly intelligent and perfectly sane but precocious and dirty minded girls."

Mrs. Honora Mary Parker was battered to death on 22nd June. Two months later her daughter Pauline, aged sixteen, and Pauline's great friend, Juliet Hulme, aged fifteen years and ten months, were tried at Christchurch for her murder. Both pleaded not guilty. Mr. Justice Adams presided. For the defence led, for Parker, Dr. A. L. Haslam, and for Hulme, Mr. T. A. Gresson.

Opening the case against the two girls the Crown Prosecutor, Mr. A. W. Brown, described how about 3.30 p.m., on 22nd June, two girls came running into a tea shop in Victoria Park, gasping and saying, "Please help us. Mummy has been hurt. She's hurt -covered with blood." A few minutes later the body of a woman, her head terribly battered, lying in a pool of blood, was found on a secluded path near a rustic bridge. "She was a woman who was known as Mrs. Rieper, but her real name," said Brown, "was Parker."

That evening the daughter of the dead woman, Pauline Parker, and on the next day, her close friend Juliet Hulme, were arrested and charged with the murder. "I feel bound to tell you," Mr. Brown went on, "that the evidence will make it terribly clear that the two young accused conspired together to kill the mother of one of them and horribly carried their plan into effect."

The circumstances of the crime are unusual, indeed unique. It is rare that two girls of the ages of the accused should stand trial on the charge of murdering the mother of one of them.

"The evidence will be that that the two accused came to the conclusion, after much thought, that the mother of the accused Parker was an obstacle in their path, that she thwarted their desires and that she should be done away with. They planned to murder her and they put their plan into effect by battering her over the head with a brick encased in a stocking.

"Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme met at school and became friendly and this friendship developed into an intense devotion. Their main object in life was to be together, sharing each other's thoughts, secrets and plans, and if any person dared to part them, then that person should be forcibly removed. Mrs. Parker became perturbed at the unhealthy relationship and tried to break it up. This was resented by the accused and the resentment gradually grew into hate and eventually requited in this ghastly crime.

"Early in 1954 Dr. Hulme, who had resigned his position as Rector of Canterbury University College, decided to return to England and to take his daughter Juliet to South Africa. It was discovered that the two girls were planning to go to America to have their novels published and that they had tried to acquire funds to pay their fares. Both girls were determined not to be parted, and Pauline Parker wanted to go to South Africa and Juliet Hulme wanted her to go with her. Both girls knew that Mrs. Parker would be the one to object most strenuously to their going away together. They decided the best way to end Mrs. Parker's objection was to kill her in such a manner that it would appear to have been an accident.

"Early in June when the cite of Dr. Hulme's departure had been fixed for 3rd July, the girls coldly and calculatingly formed a plan to kill Mrs. Parker. They pretended to be resigned to being parted and they persuaded her to take them for a farewell outing. They planned to entice her to a secluded spot and strike her on the head. They would then rush for help, announcing that she had died as a result of a fall.

"On the day of the outing Juliet Hulme took with her part of a brick from her home. After the accident they both told the same story."

Mr. Brown next described the finding of Pauline Parker's diary. "In it," he said, "she reveals that she and Juliet Hulme have engaged in shoplifting, toyed with blackmail and talked about and played with matters of sex. There is clear evidence that as long ago as February she was anxious that her mother should die and that during the few weeks before 22nd June she was planning to kill her mother in the way she was killed."

Extracts of the diary were read in court.

13th February: Why could not mother die? Dozens of people, thousands of people are dying every day. So why not mother, and father too?
28th April: Anger against mother boiled up inside me. It is she who is one of the main obstacles in my path. Suddenly a means of ridding myself of the obstacle occurred to me.
29th April: I did not tell Deborah (her pet name for Juliet) of my plans for removing mother … the last fate I wish to meet is one in a Borstal…. I am trying to think of some way. I want it to appear either a natural or an accidental death.
19th June: We practically finished our books (the novels the girls were writing together) to-day and our main "ike" for the day was to moider mother. The notion is not a new one, but this time it is a definite plan which we intend to carry out. We have worked it out carefully and are both thrilled with the idea Naturally we feel a trifle nervous, but the pleasure of anticipation is great.
20th June: We discussed our plans for moidering mother and made them a little clearer. Peculiarly enough I have no qualms of conscience (or is it peculiar we are so mad ?).
21st June: We decided to use a brick in a stocking rather than a sandbag. We discussed the moider fully. I feel keyed up as if I was planning a surprise party. So next time I write in the diary mother will be dead. How odd, yet how pleasing.
22nd June: I am writing a little of this up in the morning before the death. I felt very excited and the night before Christmassy last night. I did not have pleasant dreams though.

Concluding his opening address, Mr. Brown said, "You will hear that Juliet Hulme carried a small pink stone to Victoria Park. The theory of the Crown is that she would place it on the path and that Mrs. Parker would be asked to bend down and examine it. While she was doing so, Pauline Parker, armed with the brick in the stocking and standing behind her mother, would strike her a heavy blow on the back of the neck and kill her. The two girls would then arrange the body in such a position as to give the impression of an accident. Their plan miscarried. Perhaps Mrs. Parker did not bend far enough and so received repeated blows, causing the terrible injuries she received."

Evidence was given that a brick and a stocking, on both of which were blood and hairs similar to that of the dead woman, were found beside the body. Both girls were hysterical when they reported the death at the tea house. They both had blood on the face and clothes. They told the woman at the tea house that Mrs. Parker had slipped on a plank and bumped her head on a brick as she fell and that her head "kept bumping and banging." A doctor who had been called to the scene said that he found that he could not explain the woman's injuries as having been caused by a fall, so he informed the police.

The pathologist who examined the body of Mrs. Parker said that death had resulted from multiple head injuries and a fracture of the skull. There were forty-five discernible injuries, twenty-four being lacerated wounds on the face and head. The injuries showed that a crushing force had been applied while the head was immobile on the ground. If the brick had been in the stocking and swung with considerable force it could have caused the injuries. The bruises on the throat indicated that Mrs. Parker had been held by the throat. A laceration on the finger suggested she received the injury when she put up her hand to defend herself.

Herbert Rieper said that he had lived with the dead woman as her husband for twenty-five years. They were not married. They had three children, Pauline being the second and she had no idea her parents were not married. At the age of five Pauline had been ill and had had a number of operations which prevented her from indulging in sport. He became worried because she cut herself off from her parents' affection. Last year the friendship with Juliet Hulme became more intense. Pauline stayed with her for days at a time. From the time they met, she became moody, easily upset and easily made angry. At Easter an approach was made to Dr. Hulme about breaking up the friendship and he learned that Dr. Hulme was taking Juliet abroad.

In the witness box, Mrs. Hulme said that Juliet was born in England in 1938, and in London suffered from bomb shock and had nightmares for about a month. Juliet was already in New Zealand when she and her husband came there in 1948. In 1948 her health had broken down and she had had to go to a sanatorium. Because Juliet was shy and reserved, she and her husband welcomed her friendship with Pauline. While she and her husband were overseas in the summer of 1953 the friendship developed and Mrs. Rieper (Mrs. Parker) was concerned. They learned of the girls' plan to go to America, but they promised to put it out of their minds. It was arranged for Dr. Hulme to take Juliet to South Africa on 3rd July. Both girls knew it three weeks before that date. She said that Juliet was always an excitable child and full of fantasy. She found it difficult to stop playing her games and enter into the less exciting family circle.

Mrs Hulme described how the two girls wrote to each other in the characters of the stories that they were writing together. Juliet was first Charles II, Emperor of Borovnia. Then she became Deborah, the Emperor's mistress by whom she had a son, Dialbo. Pauline Parker started as Lancelot Trelawney, a soldier of fortune, and he succeeds in wedding the Empress of Bolumnia and becomes Emperor, and they have a daughter, Mariole. Pauline assumed these characters in turn and wrote to Juliet as such. The earlier part of the correspondence, she said, is extravagant and grandiose but it later becomes suicide and sudden death. Later violence and bloodshed figure to a disproportionate degree.

Mrs. Hulme was asked: "On 24th April there is an entry in the diary referring to Dr. Hulme saying you and Dr. Hulme were likely to part for private reasons and the future of the marriage was uncertain. Do you know if that is correct?" Mrs. Hulme: "I understand that my husband did say something like that to them."

Mrs. Hulme said that she and her husband had discussed with medical friends their concern over their daughter's emotional development but they were advised that it would be unwise to have her psycho-analysed at such an early age. Asked, "Did you have any reason to suspect your daughter was insane?" she answered "No."

Walter Perry, an engineer, also gave evidence. He came to New Zealand on 2nd July, 1953. He had occupied part of Dr. Hulme's house since Christmas, 1953. He said that Pauline Parker was a constant visitor and was a very close friend of Juliet's. He had bought for 50 a horse from Juliet, giving the money to her father. On the evening of 22nd June, Pauline had told him that her mother had slipped on a piece of wood and hit her head on a stone, and banged her head repeatedly on a stone.

In reference to Juliet's correspondence with Pauline, Mr Perry said that the girls were vying with one another as to who could create the most bloodshed and sudden death. Practically every letter contained some reference to assassination or similar topic.

Senior Detective Brown gave evidence about his interview with Pauline Parker after her mother's death and about a statement she made. At first she said that her mother had slipped and hit her head on a rock or stone. When he told her, "We believe the girl Hulme was not present when the fatality occurred," she looked surprised. "I then said, 'You are suspected of murder of your mother.' She made no reply. I told her that she need not say anything then, but she could make a statement if she wished. She said, 'No. Ask me questions."' The statement that resulted was as follows:

Q. Who assaulted your mother?
A. I did.
Q. Why?
A. If you don't mind I won't answer that question.
Q. When did you make up your mind to kill your mother?
A. A few days ago.
Q. Did you tell anyone you were going to do it?
A. No. My friend did not know anything about it. She was out of sight at the time, she had gone on ahead.
Q. What did your mother say when you struck her?
A. I would rather not answer that.
Q. How often did you hit her?
A. I don’t know but a great many times I imagine.
Q. What did you use?
A. A half brick inside the foot of a stocking. I took them with me for the purpose. I had the brick in my shoulder bag. I wish to state that Juliet did not know of my intentions and she did not see me strike my mother. I took the chance to strike my mother when Juliet was away. I still do not wish to say why I killed my mother.
Q. Did you tell Juliet that you killed your mother?
A. She knew nothing about it. As far as I know she believed what I told her, although she may have guessed what had happened, but I doubt it, as we were both so shaken that it probably did not occur to her.
Q. Why did Juliet tell the same story as you to the lady in the tea kiosk?
A. I think she simply copied what I said. She might have suspected what I had done and she would not have wished to believe it nor to have got me into trouble. As soon as I had started to strike my mother I regretted it, but I could not stop.

Brown said that the police decided to take Parker into custody. He told how he had found fourteen exercise books, a scrap book and a diary in her room. Later, "I told the girl Hulme we had reason to believe her first written statement was not correct and that she was present when the assault took place. I then said, 'You are suspected of taking part in the death of Mrs. Rieper.' I told her that the girl Parker had said we were to ask Deborah, and what she said would be right. She said that she would rather not say anything then ".

At the police station a piece of paper which she had tried to burn was taken from Parker. On it was written. "I am taking the blame for everything."

Detective-Sergeant Tate told of his interviews with Juliet Hulme. She made two statements. According to the first she was not with Pauline when Mrs. Parker was killed. She was further up the path. She came back to find her lying on the ground. Pauline told her that her mother had slipped. She said that she had said that she was there at the time to support Pauline's story. The next day, 23rd June, Juliet apologized for misleading him, said Tate. She said she now wished to tell the truth. In her second statement she said they decided to go to Victoria Park with Mrs. Parker to have it out about Pauline accompanying her to South Africa. "She knew that it was proposed that we should take a brick in a stocking to the park with us. I had part of a brick which I wrapped in newspaper. I know the brick was put in a stocking at Rieper's house. I did not put it there."

She said that in Victoria Park, "there was a pink stone on the path. I dropped it there myself. On the way back I was walking in front. I was expecting Mrs. Rieper to be attacked." She continued, "I heard noises behind me. It was loud conversation and anger. I saw Mrs. Rieper in a sort of squatting position. They were quarrelling. I went back. I saw Pauline hit Mrs. Rieper with the brick in the stocking. I took the stocking and hit her too. I was terrified. I thought that one of them had to die. I wanted to help Pauline. It was terrible. Mrs. Rieper moved convulsively. We both held her. She was still when we left her. The brick had come out of the stocking with the force of the blows."

Later in the statement, Juliet said she was not quite sure what was going to happen when they went to Victoria Park. "I though we may have been able to frighten Mrs. Rieper with the brick and she would have given her consent for Pauline and I to stay together. After the first blow was struck I knew it would be necessary for us to kill her."

That was the prosecution's case. The remainder of the evidence was given by psychiatrists, first for the defence and then in rebuttal by other doctors for the prosecution. Their evidence took three day's to hear. Only part of what they said can be given here. Before they gave evidence both defence counsel, Mr. Gresson for Hulme and Dr. Haslam for Parker, addressed the court.

Mr. Gresson said that the fact that Parker and Hulme assaulted Mrs. Rieper and killed her is, unfortunately, clear beyond dispute. He went on, "The actual killing or physical assault, therefore, cannot be successfully refuted, and the sole but very important issue in this case concerns the mental capacity, the sanity or otherwise, of these girls when they committed their ill-conceived and disastrous assault." The onus of proving that they were incapable of understanding the nature and quality of their act and of knowing that such an act was wrong, rested on the defence. The law assumed that a person was sane until the contrary was proved. He said that he would call witnesses who would say that Parker and Hulme were insane when they committed their attack on Mrs. Rieper, and were still suffering from a mental illness known as paranoia of the exalted type associated with folie a deux, a phrase meaning communicated insanity. He concluded: "The Crown has seen to fit to refer to the accused as ordinary, dirty-minded little girls. Our evidence will show that they are nothing of the kind. The Crown's description is unfortunate and medically incorrect. They are mentally sick girls, more to be pitied than blamed."

Dr. Reginald Medlicott said that he had seen both girls and read their writings. Each girl had had to endure a great deal of physical ill-health. A younger sister of Parker was a mongolian imbecile. Her parents' first baby was a "blue baby'' which died at birth. These things raise a query as to the stock from which she comes. In reference to the girls' friendship he said: "Their association, I consider, proved tragic for them. There is evidence that their friendship became a homosexual one. There is no proof that there was a physical relationship, although there is a lot of suggestive evidence from the diary that this occurred. There is evidence that they had baths together, spent nights in bed together and had frequent talks on sexual matters." Hulme said, "I don't wish to place myself above the law. I am apart from it," said Dr. Medlicott.

"Pauline Parker said the fourth world was their idea of paradise," and Juliet that "we do believe we are geniuses."

When Dr. Medlicott interviewed the girls in prison they constantly abused him. "Parker told me I was an irritating fool and displeasing to look at. Hulme pulled me over the coals for not talking sufficiently clearly. After I had physically examined Parker she shouted out, ' I hope you break your flaming neck.'

"There was," he said, "a gross reversal of moral sense. They admired those things which are evil and condemned those things the community considers good. They had weird ideas and their own paradise, god and religion."

He read to the court a poem, "The Ones That I Worship," composed by the girls:

There are living amongst two dutiful daughters
Of a man who possesses two beautiful daughters
The most glorious beings in creation
They'd be the pride and joy of any nation.
You cannot know nor try to guess
The sweet soothingness of their caress.
The outstanding genius of this pair
Is understood by few, they are so rare.
Compared with these two every man is a fool,
The world is most honoured that they should deign to rule
And above us these goddesses reign on high.
I worship the power of these lovely two
With that adoring love known to so few.
'Tis indeed a miracle one must feel,
That two such heavenly creatures are real.
Both sets of eyes, though different far, hold many mysteries strange
Impassively they watch the race of man decay and change.
Hatred burning bright in the brown eyes with enemies for fuel.
Icy scorn glitters in the grey eyes, contemptuous and cruel.
Why are men such fools they will not realise
The wisdom that is hidden behind those strange eyes
And these wonderful people are you and I.

In Pauline's diary there was, he said, an entry which says that they had worked out how much prostitutes earned and wondered how much they could earn that way. Pauline also talked a good deal of the fun they would have out of their profession. On 25th April, Parker records, "Deborah and I are sticking to one thing. We sink or swim together." In another place she records, "We are so brilliantly clever." There were references to shoplifting, blackmailing Perry and getting money from her father's safe.

On 6th June, Pauline records that she and Hulme are stark, staring, raving mad. "The whole thing," said Dr. Medlicott "rises to a fantastic crescendo. In my opinion they were insane when they attacked Mrs. Rieper. Paranoia," declared the doctor, ''is a form of insanity in which there is a surface of apparent normality. I consider Parker and Hulme certifiably insane."

Dr. Medlicott was subjected to a searching cross examination by the prosecution. It was elicited that while the girls knew what they had done was wrong, they considered themselves outside the law. They had set out, he said, to break the Ten Commandments. Parker broke them all, but Hulme only broke nine.

Questioned about homosexual relationships between the two girls, he was asked,

"Your reading of the diaries showed that these young people played about with each other sexually?"
"It is very suggestive but there is no clear evidence of it."
"But she (Parker) did have intercourse with a boy over and over again?"
"No, only once."
"But she attempted to have it more than once?"
"It would appear so."
"According to the diary the boy was in bed with her to 3 am.?''
"And the following night he was in bed with her again and was caught by Mr. Rieper?"
"That is so."
"There are other references to them attempting intercourse?"
"That is so."
"So she had a good deal of, knowledge of the other sex, didn't she?"
"She had."
He said that the girls invented fictional characters, film stars and saints. A diary entry for 12th June, 1954 read, "Eventually we enacted how each saint would make love in bed. We felt exhausted but very satisfied."
"I have no doubts about their gross homosexuality," he told the court.
Asked, "Did these young persons when they attacked Mrs. Parker know what they were doing? "
Dr. Medlicott repined, "They knew what they were doing." "They knew the nature and quality of their act?" "They did."
"Did they know they were wrong according to the law?"
"They did but they did not recognize the law."

Dr. Haslam, for Parker, called Dr. Francis Bennett, who, he said, had been consulted about the girls' friendship before the tragedy occurred. Dr. Bennett, referring to the moral responsibility of the paranoic, said it was the murder that was the actual proof of the diagnosis. "There came the threat of separation. Anything that threatens the paranoic makes him dangerous. They thought that by removing Pauline's mother the way would be clear. This idea was stupid but they have steadily maintained it was justified. Neither will admit contrition or regret. Pauline told me she would still feel justified to-day in killing her mother if she was a threat to their being together. Juliet Hulme was more outspoken. She not only considers the murder justified but also that other murders might be justified if there was a threat to the association of the two accused."

Asked, "Did these girls know when they were killing Mrs. Parker what they were doing?"
he replied, "They knew they were killing Mrs. Parker."
"Do you agree these girls knew they were committing what the law calls a criminal act?"
he said, "That can't be answered yes or no."
"Because people can have two loyalties."
"Did they know it was contrary to the law?"
"Did they know it was wrong so far as the law was concerned?"
"Did they not also know it was wrong in the eyes of society at large?"
"They probably did, but I doubt very much if they gave any consideration to what society thought."

By the Judge, Dr. Bennett's views were summarised thus "In your opinion they knew the act was contrary to the law and contrary to the ordinary standards of the community, but nevertheless it was not contrary to their own moral standards?" "That is so, Your Honour. You have exactly summarized it," Dr, Bennett replied.

Called by the prosecution, Dr. Kenneth Stallworthy, who had seen the girls, was asked:
"Do you consider them sane or insane?" He replied, "I consider them sane medically because I did not consider either certifiable, and I consider them sane in a legal sense. They knew the nature and quality of their act. I am of the opinion that they both knew at the time that their action was wrong in law, and that they were breaking the law. In the diaries there was evidence of motive, planning and premeditation." In his interview with Parker she said, "We knew we were doing wrong. We knew we would be punished if we were caught and we did our best not to be caught." Hulme told him, "I knew it was wrong to murder and I knew at the time I was murdering somebody. You'd have to be an absolute moron not to know murder was against the law."

"The accused," said Dr. Stallworthy, "had some justification for conceit. Hulme displayed a shrewdness in appreciating difficult questions and a shrewdness in answering them more like that of an older, sophisticated person. Parker was well above average in intelligence and is able to write. These two girls were very very fond of each other. The most important thing in the world to them was to be together. There have been other great loves in the world where one person would stick at nothing to be with the other."

Two other doctors, called by the prosecution, Dr. Saville and Dr. Hunter, agreed that the girls were sane. All five doctors gave detailed reasons for their opinions. Those called by different sides came to different conclusions. As is noticeable in other murder trials, when the issue of insanity arises, the question of the meaning of the mental illness known as paranoia appears to be undecided. It is, apparently, a compelling force under which people do things they know to be wrong in the eyes of the law but to them are not wrong.

On the sixth day of the trial counsel for both girls and for the Crown addressed the court, the judge summed-up and the jury arrived at their verdict. The question for the jury was whether the girls knew what they were doing was wrong. According to the defence, they were "problem children," who at the time they committed the act were ill and not criminally responsible for their actions. According to the prosecution, they were two highly intelligent and perfectly sane but dirty-minded girls. "In my submission," said the Crown Prosecutor, "They are not incurably insane. They are incurably bad."

Mr. Justice Adams told the jury that the burden of proof of insanity rested on the defence. "The gravamen of this ease," he said, "is the defence of insanity. If the jury found it established their duty was to return a verdict of not guilty. Your proper choice lies between ' guilty ' and ' not guilty ' on the grounds of insanity." He went on:
"Grave crimes are almost invariably committed by persons knowing that they were doing wrong but nevertheless by some perversity of the mental process are led to commit the act. In such cases the only question is, did the accused know that the act was wrong?

"There is no doctor who has said or even suggested that either of the accused did not know that what they were doing was wrong. Is there anywhere else in the evidence any material on which you can properly conclude that either of the accused did not know that the act was wrong? If not, your duty is plain; the proper verdict is a simple verdict of guilty."

The judge asked the jury to consider two important words: "knowing" and "wrong." "As to the word ' wrong ' I tell you, as a matter of law, that a person knows a thing can be wrong if he Or she knows it to be contrary to the law of the land, and contrary to the moral standards accepted by ordinary, reasonable members of the community. It is not permissible to say, 'I knew this was a breach of the law and a breach of the moral code, but I thought I was above or beyond the law and that although it was illegal or immoral I might commit it without infringing my own code of morality.' That is no defence in law.

"The other important word is the word 'knowing.' It has to be considered at the very moment of the commission of the crime.

Were their minds so confused that they did not know the act was wrong? " asked the judge.

After a retirement of two hours and fifteen minutes, the jury returned a verdict of guilty against each of the accused. They also found that both were under eighteen years of age. In consequence the judge sentenced Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme to be detained during Her Majesty's pleasure.

So ended the most sensational and the most tragic murder of 1954. In time, no doubt, the murder of the mother of one by two young girls will be quoted as the most dreadful crime of the century. It was a premeditated, carefully planned crime by two girls who lived in a world of their own. To prevent being parted, they committed murder. To them the removal of Mrs. Parker was the obvious way out of the difficulty. The compulsion was more powerful than was the fear of discovery and retribution. It blinded them to their responsibilities as human beings. To Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme the rights of others were of no importance. Complete egotists, they were insane only in the sense that their ideas were those of animals rather than of human beings. Their law was the law of the jungle and like wild animals they must be caged until they have shown themselves capable of living together with other human beings. One day, perhaps, they may have a second try at life.